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Yankees take two from Blue Jays

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Even when he is not getting an opportunity to get a hit, Ichiro Suzuki can make an impact for the New York Yankees.

In the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday, Ichiro's presence was felt on the bases as a pinch runner as he scored the winning run on a hit by Jayson Nix, lifting the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that gave them a day-night doubleheader sweep at Yankee Stadium.

"I went in as a pinch runner and I thought I needed to do something today," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "And it was my chance to do something, a good opportunity."

Ichiro had two hits as New York opened the doubleheader with an 8-4 victory highlighted by three-run home runs from Robinson Cano and Chris Stewart. That moved Ichiro within one of reaching 4,000 combined hits in Japan and the United States.

Ichiro did not appear in the game until the ninth, when he pinch-ran for Mark Reynolds, who drew a four-pitch walk from Darren Oliver (3-4). After getting sacrificed over by Eduardo Nunez, he stole third, just beating the throw from Josh Thole.

"It changes everything for them," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "They've got to bring the infield in. There's more pressure on the pitcher. It changes it when you have a runner on third with less than two outs and he did a good job of stealing the base, a good sacrifice by Nuney.

"Reynolds did a good job of drawing a walk. He's a guy that can end the game with one swing, so they've got to be careful with him. So it was a good effort by all of those guys."

That forced the Blue Jays to draw the infield in and made things easier for Nix, who just had to lift a single over somebody's head. Nix hit one to left field as Ichiro easily came home.

"It changes it a lot," Nix said of Ichiro. "It makes my job a lot easier,"

The combination of Ichiro's baserunning and Nix's hitting lifted the Yankees to their third straight win. New York also posted its eighth victory in 10 games and is 5 1/2 games behind Oakland for the second wild card.

After Ichiro scored, Nix celebrated his first walk-off hit with his teammates at first base before getting soaked with Gatorade while conducting his postgame interview.

"It's a great win and it feels great to do that," Nix said.

Nix put himself in position for the winning hit with another big hit in his previous at-bat. The Yankees had done little against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle but Nix lifted a first-pitch cutter into the left-field seats for the tying home run with two outs in the seventh.

"It's huge," Yankees starter Phil Hughes said. "He's been a big force for us off the bench sometimes when we need him coming in at third, short. He plays wherever we need him to play, and he's huge for us.

Nix's late hits prevented Hughes from a tough-luck loss. Hughes allowed two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings and was in line for his 13th loss.

Instead, Nix's hit gave the win to Mariano Rivera (4-2), who stranded two in the ninth and pitched both games of the doubleheader.

"It's a good day," Girardi said. "We win the first one (with) some three-run homers and then we win with a big homer by Nixy to tie it up and then the game-winning hit."

The Yankees completed the doubleheader sweep despite getting little from Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.

In New York's 8-4 afternoon victory, Rodriguez and Soriano were a combined 1-for-7 with three strikeouts. In the nightcap, Rodriguez struck out three times and also bounced into an inning-ending double play in the eighth against Sergio Santos.

The Blue Jays played without Jose Bautista (sore left hip) and lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games. They also dropped their eighth straight game in New York.

"They're battling," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "They're hanging in every game, but we're just not winning them. That's the way it goes"

Rajai Davis was involved with both Toronto runs, as he scored on a wild pitch in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Before allowing the home run to Nix, Buehrle was in line for his second career win against the Yankees and first in nine decisions. He allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings.

NOTES: The Blue Jays will put Bautista on the disabled list. They kept him out of the lineup after removing him in the fourth inning of the afternoon game with left hip soreness. Gibbons said in between games that inactivity on defense caused it to flare up. "He felt it a couple of days ago and said it was no big deal, but all of that standing around in the outfield during all of those pitches aggravated it," Gibbons said. "He hurt it on a slide, maybe our last game back home, but it wasn't enough to knock him out." ,,, Blue Jays SS Maicer Izturis left the night game with a sprained left ankle. ... The Yankees were not too pleased with the news that Boston RHP Ryan Dempster was handed a five-game suspension for hitting Rodriguez. "I thought he at least should miss a start and he's not going to do that," New York LHP CC Sabathia said. "I don't think it does anything." ... Toronto LF Kevin Pillar was hitless in his first 17 at-bats before getting his first career hit in the third inning Tuesday night.
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